Microsoft Windows: History of Windows, a Windology (infographic)

Microsoft announces its beta of Windows 8 today in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2012 show. It’ll be a huge day for CEO Steve Ballmer — and especially for Windows chief Steve Sinofsky, who likely is next in line for the top spot.

But I remember when a day like this meant a lot to another Microsoft exec — co-founder and former CEO, Bill Gates.

It was 1989 and Microsoft had gathered the handful of journalists who covered tech back then at the Windows on the World restaurant at the top of the ill-fated North Tower of the World Trade Center.

It was my first time in New York City and the view was dizzying. Gates had just announced Microsoft Windows 3.0, a turning point for Microsoft and the DOS-based PC world in general.

Photo of the view from Windows on the World, North Tower World Trade Center, Credit: FoodJobsBook

As a cub reporter on the operating systems beat for PC Week — then a Ziff-Davis trade weekly that later spun out eWeek — I was already intimately familiar with the software.

I’d spent most of that year sneaking photos of it via secret beta versions held at a few big enterprises. The IT folk would’ve been under non-disclosure back then, but they were eager to slip tips on Windows 3.0 to a reporter for all the reason sources still leak info today.

A Microsoft PR rep handed me a Windows 3.0 manual with the signatures of its main designers and programmers as Gates spoke to the small crowd. He spoke briefly of a vision of a PC in every office, in every home. The idea seemed positively quixotic.

As Gates spoke, his mother, the late Mary Gates, leaned over to me and said, “You know, Gina, this is the happiest day of Bill’s life.”

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